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Tesla CEO Elon Musk denies sexual harassment allegations

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Yahoo Finance Live anchors discuss allegations that Elon Musk sexually harassed a flight attendant in 2016.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Thing number three. I mean, we're talking about Elon Musk again. This time, he's under fire after Business Insider article claimed that Musk sexually harassed a flight attendant and then paid this flight attendant and SpaceX through SpaceX $250-- $250,000-- $250 wouldn't be very much-- $250,000 to cover it up in 2018. Musk responded on Twitter, of course, stating that those wild accusations are utterly untrue.

And a couple of things to note here, the incident allegedly happened in 2016. Then this $250,000 severance was allegedly paid in 2018. This insider article mostly cites a friend of the accuser, who talked about all of this stuff happening. Musk pushing back against it on Twitter and really sort of saying, it feeds into the narrative of him as under fire, under political fire, and that this has to do with him being attacked once he said that he was going to vote Republican. Or maybe one of the other narratives he put forward is, it has to do with his quest to buy Twitter, and that this is an attempt to derail that in some way. So kind of alleging that this is a politically motivated attack from various sides.

BRAD SMITH: But got to look at the history of how his companies have also had allegations, even, of racial discrimination come forward. There have been lawsuits that Tesla has had to put under settlements instead of seeing it fully play out in court, because in that case, a company run by Elon Musk, at the end of the day, would not want the stain of having lost a legal argument in that case in order to have that stain of them being looked at as a racially discriminatory company.

In the same case, you would rather, in SpaceX's instance here, they would rather, much rather, go through with a settlement out of court, instead of seeing them labeled as a company that also has a story that very much could have been, at the time, been squarely at the front page of the MeToo movement as well.

JULIE HYMAN: To be fair, this is the first allegation we have heard regarding him personally. Most of the former racial discrimination lawsuits or other types of workplace that was not a fair workplace had to do with the systems in place, right? It didn't have to do with Musk himself. And this is the first that I'm aware of sexual harassment allegation against him directly. And he points that out. He says, in the 30 years that I've been in public life, this has not come forward before. It doesn't mean it didn't happen. But it's something that we, as the public and as the media, did not hear about before.

Is it going to do anything to his attempt to buy Twitter? It doesn't feel like it at this point. I mean, at the same time, we have to look at what else is going on with Musk right now. And it's interesting you bring up the discrimination lawsuit because this week, of course, Tesla was taken out of one of the ESG pegged ETFs. And he was very vocal about that, saying that that should not have happened, which had been linked to some of these workplace allegations. So it's interesting, then, to get this allegation made public at the end of that kind of week.

BRAD SMITH: There is no shortage of headlines around Elon Musk right now, but--

JULIE HYMAN: Well, there's one more I want to mention, too.

BRAD SMITH: Yes, yes.

JULIE HYMAN: And that has to do with Ark, Ark Investment, Cathie Wood's firm, of course. Tesla is no longer the top holding in ARKK, which is her benchmark ETF. The shares worth about $703 million as of Thursday's close, her holding in Tesla. Roku now the top holding, $717 million.

Now, that's according to the data that they come out daily. Bloomberg compiled it and sort of came out with this number. But they have been working down those Tesla shares, 1.59 million Tesla shares as of the end of March, 5.79 million shares a year earlier. So that stake has been getting smaller, which is sort of interesting because, obviously, she has been-- it's still a big stake.

BRAD SMITH: Right.

JULIE HYMAN: But she has been one of his biggest backers.

BRAD SMITH: Interesting. Still so bullish on Roku winning perhaps the streaming wars.

JULIE HYMAN: We'll see how that works out.

BRAD SMITH: Indeed.